Jason Bell is one of the most well known faces from across the NFL landscape in the UK.
If you didn’t already know him from his playing career which saw him suit up for the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans and New York Giants, you will most certainly know him from his time on BBC’s ‘The NFL Show’.
A career that saw him spend six years as an NFL player, Jason now spends the majority of his time in the financial business sector or providing entertainment for us adoring fans with his media stints during the football season and regular podcast with Osi Umeniyora.
It’s safe to say he’s had his fair share of successes. Yet, despite these successes and despite him being a genuinely nice, down-to-earth human being, the former cornerback and safety has still faced numerous struggles throughout his life due to the colour of his skin.
The recent tragic murder of George Floyd at the hands of an American police officer has sent shock-waves across the globe, and for Bell, has hit very close to home.
Although now living in the UK, he grew up in Los Angeles and has seen first hand the authority that American police have over citizens, especially those of an ethnic minority.
“Police brutality was something unavoidable in my life” explained the 42-year-old.
“No matter how much it was discussed, people that did not live the life I did and so many others, people couldn’t imagine the experiences we went through.
“Now with the ability to record everything in an instant, people are forced to reckon with what has been happening in my 42 years on this planet Earth.
“I’ve always had issues with police and police brutality and the power they have had over my life. The only way change happens is if the masses, together, all of us, say enough is enough and we use our power as a group to change the situation at hand by using our rights.
“It hurts because it’s painful but anything that has happened is painful. Hopefully the pain and discomfort everyone is experiencing now, real change comes out of it.
“It’s young people, young people with energy and passion that want to see a better world for themselves. They are the fuel and the engine to this, so I applaud those that say they are moved”.
For many of us, a life full of struggle surrounding this subject is unimaginable. A life where our opinions aren’t as important as another, simply because of the colour of our skin, seems too surreal to be true.
But for people like Jason Bell, for people like the late George Floyd, this situation has gone on for decades – the ignorance within our society must end now.
“Extremely emotional”, said Bell, when recalling his feelings of the last few days.
“This was a perfect storm in a very terrible way. You have what’s happening with COVID-19 and what I see in that and the way I view the world, especially from a financial aspect.
“There has been a clear divide in the haves and the have not, especially in the US.
“At least people over here (in the UK) can get around with the NHS. In the UK, everybody has that. No matter where you are in the economic scale, you can go to that. It’s not the same in the USA.
“So this thing has shown people where they stand. If they ever thought it was different, they now see what side of the scale they are really on.
“That’s hard enough, but now people see the thing that has always been in the US and that is that the police have so much authority over you.
“That, and at the same time you are realising you are a ‘have not’ as far as where I stand in society – the same way people have health care that you can’t. It’s a perfect storm.
“And you have people in politics fuelling that division for re-election purposes. This whole thing as a sports person, as someone that has lived my life in sports, is about leadership.
“You see it everywhere – organisations, coaches, players. We always talk how it makes us better as a person, as a player.
“No matter who they pick, we know who the leader is because we see them in adverse situations and we see how they react.
“Me and Osi are so close because he is the same guy he was on the team. He is a leader and the way he treats people is with respect, always has and always will. That’s why everybody in the NFL community treats him like that.
“Young people need to take notice. Don’t let older people tell you what leadership is, you know what leadership is.
“Leadership is important when you are in chaotic situations where there is no road map. It’s the essence of what a human being is. It comes out in pressure situations and leaders shine.
“You see it in sports because it’s every day. They are challenged day in and day out. They have to home in on those skills, I don’t see that within our leaders in the world.
“What we see as fans is different than what happens in the locker room and on the field. You don’t have to get up and vote because it is as clear as day.
“You get to know these people and see how they conduct their life and what’s important to them. We get to make those decisions because we have a clear understanding of who these people are.
“There are so many people from so many different walks of life and you get to bond with them and have conversations – sometimes hard, sometimes easy and you get to see all these different things that make us beautiful as human beings.
“Hate comes from fear and biases comes from a lack of understanding.
“In sports you’re forced to understand each other because that’s the only way you get success.
“People want to be heard, just listen, once you listen people are going to listen to you. Leaders aren’t the focal point, they are a vessel”.
From the outside looking in, NFL dressing rooms scream unity. Filled with such a diverse background of players across all 32 franchises, it’s hard to imagine anything other than togetherness.
However, what came as a huge shock, was hearing Jason’s story of division within the lockers.
Speaking of his time at UCLA, he said “I was thinking the other day, I remember in college, we were really good and we had won 20 something games in a row and we were going down to play the University of Miami – we were undefeated.
“There was this proposition called 209 that basically impacted minorities as far as being admitted into college. It was a rule that basically put in place a quota of certain different ethnicities to get into school so it was really big for us as players to be able to represent this on the big stage.
“We wanted to wear black wristbands in the game, our coach found out and made a big thing about it and why we weren’t going to do it.
“I saw it then in the locker room. People I’m friends with now, their lack of compassion towards it, because to them, the game was the important thing, this wasn’t – it was something to deal with later.
“I was young at the time and we didn’t do it for the game because it was very disruptive and our head coach wasn’t involved with it and didn’t support us.
“That story has resonated with me my entire life because that’s the same thing people continue to say:
“‘Not now, later. I hear you, that sounds good but later. You know why? Because it disrupts what I’m trying to do. It’s not important to me’.
“That’s how it has been my entire life. People aren’t against it but it just isn’t important”.
If you want to listen to the full podcast with Jason, where we go into far more detail on this topic, as well as discuss the upcoming NFL season among other things you can do via Spotify and all other good streaming services.
If you would like to watch the chat as a visual, you can do so via our Youtube channel here.
Sign the petition: https://www.change.org/p/mayor-jacob-frey-justice-for-george-floyd